Southern Praying Mantis (martial art)
|Southern Praying Mantis|
|Literal meaning||"southern style praying mantis"|
|Part of a series on|
|Chinese martial arts|
|List of Chinese martial arts|
Southern Praying Mantis (南派螳螂, which reads in Cantonese as Nam (south) Pai (Clan) Tong Long, translated as Praying Mantis) is a Chinese martial art native to the Hakka people (客家, in Cantonese read Ha Ka or Ha Ga, a reference to descendants of the Han Dynasty who later migrated south at a time of political unrest). The Hakka “Praying Mantis” style of fighting is completely unrelated to the Northern Praying Mantis style. In terms of history and techniques, Southern Praying Mantis is more closely associated with fellow Hakka styles such as the Dragon (龍形拳) or Bak Mei (白眉拳).
Southern Praying Mantis places a heavy emphasis on close-range fighting. This system is known for its short power methods, and has aspects of both internal and external techniques. In application, the emphasis is on hand and arm techniques, and a limited use of low kicks. The application of close combat methods with an emphasis on hands and short kicking techniques makes the Southern Praying Mantis art somewhat akin to what many would call "street fighting." The hands are the most readily available for attack and defence of the upper body, and protect the stylist by employing ruthless techniques designed to inflict serious injury. The legs are moved quickly into range through footwork to protect and defend the body, and kicks are kept low, short and quick so as to never leave the Southern Mantis combatant off-balance and vulnerable.
There are five main branches of Southern Praying Mantis:
- Chow Gar (周家; Chow family)
- Chu Gar (朱家; Chu family)
- Kwong Sai Jook Lum (江西竹林; JiangXi ZhuLin; Bamboo Forest)
- Iron Ox (鐵牛)
- Sifu K.S.Hsiung Thong Long Quet Tsot
A common antecedent can be surmised from the same traditional region of origin, the popularity amongst the Hakka community, a reference to praying mantis, similar training forms such as Sarm Bo Jin (三步箭) and common application principles. However, despite similarities, the genealogies of these branches are not complete enough to trace them to a single common ancestor. The relationship between Chow Gar and Chu Gar can both be traced directly to Lau Shui.
The origins of the Kwong Sai Jook Lum system is controversial with some Chu Gar proponents claiming a relationship also to Lau Shui; however, those claims have since been refuted.
The Iron Ox system can be traced historically to the area of Southern China where the other branches of Southern Praying Mantis first originated and to the same Hakka communities where the art was transmitted. There are many other Southern styles such as Chuka Shaolin  that uses similar technique but are not identified as being part of this group of martial arts according to their respective schools. Those styles can be identified as being Hakka Kuen.
Kwong Sai Jook Lum tradition mentions that the people of the Pearl River Delta once referred to the Southern Praying Mantis style as "Hakka Kuen" (客家拳), a term that was initially linked to the Southern martial arts practised by the Hakka community of inland eastern Guangdong and later applied to the skills that are practised by oversea Hakka communities. The reason for this was the close association of this style with the Hakka community.
This region, the original home to Southern Praying Mantis, covers a wide expanse in Southern China. It begins at the very heart of Hakka territory at Xingning, the home of Chow Gar founder Chow Ah-Nam. From Xingning, the Dongjiang (東江) flows west out of the prefecture of Meizhou (梅州) through HohYuen, the place of origin for Iron Ox founder Choi Tit-Ngau. In the prefecture of Huizhou, the DongKwong forms the northern border of Huìyáng (惠陽) County, where Kwong Sai Jook Lum master Chung Yu-Chang and Chow/Chu Gar teacher Lau Shui grew up and established their martial arts reputation. From there, the Dongjiang flows into the Pearl River Delta (珠江三角洲) at Bao'an County (present-day Shenzhen), where Kwong Sai Jook Lum masters Wong Yook-Gong and Lum Wing-Fay originated. These masters are all members of the Hakka community and the transmission of this remained within this community until the generation of Lau Shui and Lum Wing-Fay.
The association of the term "Praying Mantis" with the style is also controversial. Each branch of the style offers a different explanation.
The traditions of the Chow Gar and Kwong Sai Jook Lum branches each maintain that their respective founders Chow Ah-Nam and Som Dot created their styles after witnessing a praying mantis fight and defeat a bird. Such inspiration is a recurring motif in the Chinese martial arts and can be found in the legends of Northern Praying Mantis, both White Crane styles, T'ai chi ch'uan, and Wing Chun.
The traditions of the Chu family branch contend that the name "Southern Praying Mantis" was chosen to conceal from Qing forces its political affiliations by pretending that this esoteric style of Ming loyalists was in fact a regional variant of the popular and widespread Northern Praying Mantis style from Shandong.
The use of the term "Praying Mantis" seems appropriate when one considers the postures of well known practitioners of this style. The emphasis on the techniques of sticky hands, the use of the forearm with the elbows tucked into the chest, claw like fingers and quick explosive actions creates an image that are visually similar to a praying mantis preparing to strike its prey. However, other martial artists argue that those techniques are more similar to the actions of the Five Ancestors style or the White Crane style than a praying mantis. Unlike the Northern Praying Mantis, which have a special hand technique that is directly attributed to a Praying Mantis strike, for example, the tángláng gōu, the Southern Praying Mantis do not have similar special hand techniques named after the mantis. The legacy of Lau Soei that is related to the praying mantis name was his famous staff form- the Tong Long Bo Sim Staff (螳螂捕蟬棍).
Lau Soei (1866–1942; 劉瑞; 劉水﹞ was a Hakka who established a reputation as a martial artist during the turn of the century in Southern China and later as a martial arts teacher in Hong Kong. Lau Soei was also known as the tiger of Dong Jian (東江老虎). His signature techniques include the "Chaujia-Tanglang-Sanjian" (the three arrows of Chaujia praying mantis, 周家螳螂三箭拳) and the staff form “Tanglang-puchangun” (螳螂捕蟬棍尤). Like many martial artists of his generation, he resettled in Hong Kong after the Chinese Civil war. He continued to teach the Southern Praying Mantis Style and many of his students eventually became teachers of this style. He was acknowledged by both the Chow Gar and the Chu Gar practitioners as the founding teacher of the system in the modern era.
The Chow family (周家) branch traces its art to c. 1800 to Chow Ah-Nam (周亞南), a Hakka who as a boy left his home in Guangdong Province for medical treatment at the Southern Shaolin Monastery in Fujian Province where, in addition to being treated for his stomach ailment, he was trained in the martial arts and eventually created Southern Praying Mantis. His student was Wong Fook Go (黃福高) who was one of the teacher of Lau Soei.
The Chu family (朱家) branch attributes its art to 'Chu' Ah Nam, also Chu Fook-To, who created Southern Praying Mantis as a fighting style for opponents of the Manchu Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) that overthrew the Han Chinese Ming royal family (1368–1644). According to the Chu family branch, Chu was a member of the Ming Royal family who took refuge at Shaolin Monastery in Henan. After the destruction of the Northern Shaolin Monastery, Chu escaped to the Southern Shaolin Monastery in Fujian. He then promoted his art in the surrounding regions.
Current students of Chu Gar are related to the students of Lau Shui. Those students continued the tradition of his school in Hong Kong after he died in 1942. Chu Gar can be found in China, Hong Kong, Australia, and United States.
Kwong Sai Jook Lum
According to oral traditions, the Kwong Sai Jook Lum (江西竹林) style traces its origins to the temple Jook Lum Gee (竹林寺; Bamboo Forest Temple), Wu Tai Shan (五台山) in Shanxi province and on Mt. Longhu (龍虎山) in Jiangxi (江西) province. The monk Som Dot (三達祖師), created this new martial art system in the 18th century. He passed the art on to Lee Kun Ching (李官清), later known as Lee Siem See (李禪師; a name that can be translated as "Zen master Lee"). Lee Siem See would travel to Southern China and spread the art amongst the general population. In Guangdong, his student, Cheung Yiu Chung (張耀宗), would later return with him to Kwong Sai (Jiangxi) Province to complete his training at Jook Lum Gee.
In 1919, Cheung returned to reside in Wei Yang Xian (Wei Yang County) Dan Shui in Guangdong Province. During the winter of 1929, Cheung opened his first martial arts school and a traditional Chinese medicine clinic in Bao'an County in Píngshān (坪山) Town and continued to promote the Jook Lum system. Wong Yook-Kong (黃(公)毓光), Lum Wing-Fay (林榮輝; 1910–1992; also known as Lum Sang, 林生; Lum Sang can be translated as Mr. Lum) and Lee Wing Sing (李腎勝) are some of his students from that period.
Lee Wing Sing (李腎勝) originally trained in Chu Gar before becoming a student of Cheung Yiu Chung. He then continued his training at the Jook Lum Gee, learning a variant of Bamboo Forest Temple Praying Mantis that was somewhat different from (although related to) the art he learned under Cheung Yiu Chung. The lineage of Lee Wing Sing is continued by his family and disciples in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Cheung eventually moved to Hong Kong. He opened a martial arts studio and became the head teacher to the Hong Kong Hakka ship and dock workers union. The classes in Hong Kong was taught by Wong Yook-Kong and this school still exists today. Wong Yook-Kong was described as a large man and in training he placed great emphasis on strength and physical conditioning before moving onto the more internal aspects of the style. One of his favorite training method was to practise with 30 to 60 LB iron rings on his wrist while he perform his forms. As a result, his students also emphasize those aspects in their training. The lineage of Wong Yook Kong is continued by his two sons: Wong Yiu Hung (黃耀雄) and Wong Yiu Hwa (黃耀華) and other students such as Lee Kwok Leung, (李國良) and Sifu John Koo of Portland, Oregon, a Disciple of both Wong Yook-Kong and Lee Wing Sing.
In the 1920s Lum Sang, one of the youngest of Cheung's students in Hong Kong, was fortunate enough to meet and study with Lee Siem See during one of Lee Siem See's trips to Hong Kong to establish a Buddhist temple (Chuk Lam Sim Yuen). Lum studied and traveled with Lee for the next seven years. In the 1930s, Lum returned to Hong Kong and opened a Kwong Sai Jook Lum Temple Tong Long Pai school in Kowloon. Lum Wing Fay was described as being small in stature, being only 5'2" and 120 lbs. In practise, he placed emphasis on softness and redirection and his students continue to display those traits. In 1942, Lum Sang emigrated to the United States and settled in the Chinatown of New York City. He started teaching in Chinatown's Hakka Association, the New York Hip Sing Tong at Pell Street. In the late 1950s, he taught at Free Mason Association Athletic Club, also known as Hung Ching. By 1963, his Kwong-Sai Jook Lum Gee Tong Long Pai was one of the largest kung fu schools. In 1969, Lam Sang retired from teaching and migrated to Taiwan. Lam Sang died in 1991. His students such as Harry Sun, Wong Buk Lam, Gin Foon-Mark, Henry Poo Yee and Louie Jack Man would establish themselves as teachers following the example and high esteemed reputation earned by Gin Foon Mark, after Lum Sang retired. All of these men have promoted this art in the United States and around the world. Gin Foon Mark became the most well known practitioner and master of the art passed to him by Lam Sang.
The Iron Ox (鐵牛) branch is named after its founder, Iron Ox Choi (Choi Dit-Ngau; 蔡鐵牛). He earned the nickname for his strength and ability to withstand his opponent's strikes. He was also known to have taken part in the Boxer Rebellion (1900) fighting against the Ching government to restore the Ming government.
Ho Kung Wah introduced the style to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Most practitioners of this branch of Southern Praying Mantis are found in Southern China but there are now promoters of this style in South America, Europe, Canada and Australia.
Sifu K.S.Hsiung Thong Long Quet Tsot
Thong Long "Praying Mantis"(Quet Tsot)"country style" (螳螂國術) is a very rare Southern Praying Mantis style taught in the city of Calcutta, India. Originating in the Moi-yan (梅縣, Pinyin: Méixiàn), north-east Guangdong province of China, the system was taught initially by Sifu Chen Kiu exclusively to the Hakka community in a school named Pei Moi Tangra Chinese School at Tangra, Calcutta (now Kolkata). Sifu Chen passed the lineage on to Sifu Hsiung Khan Seong (1917-2000) who, in his broad-mindedness, opened the style for the non-Chinese in the year 1975. He taught at Tangra, Calcutta, from the 60's till his death in the year 2000. The system is carried forward by the disciples and grand disciples of Sifu Hsiung.
Sifu Chen was taught the system by a monk in disguise, who worked as a cook in a merchant navy ship in the early 1900s. Sifu Chen Kiu settled in Calcutta in the 1940s and taught the system to Sifu K. S. Hsiung from 1952, who at that time was already a skilled martial artist.
The disciples and students have been able to preserve records of the tradition, e.g. Picture showing Sifu Hsiung with Sifu Chen's picture framed above him, in front of the legendary blackboard at Pei Moi School.
Characteristics and Training
Like other Southern Chinese martial arts, Southern Praying Mantis is characterized by a strong stance, powerful waist and fast, heavy forearms and quick hand movements. The essences of the style is captured in various poetry and mnemonic aids.
Training includes a variety of solo forms, pair practise, and weapon practise. The name and type of form will vary between branches. In Circular Tong Long (a version of Chow Gar Tong Long under the direction of Henry Sue in Australia), the form structures are as follows:
- Sarm Bo Gin
- Sarm Bo Yil Sou
- Sarm kung Bic Kuiel
- Sarm Bo Pai Tarn
- Sarm Bo Pin Kuiel
- Tong Long Bow Sim Sou
- Tong Long Won Sou
Kwong Sai Jook Lum by Gin Foon Marks Kung Fu Association excerpt of curriculum: sarm bo gin two man breakdown sarm bo gin 18 points and breakdown 7 stars and breakdown five stars and breakdown poison snake staff
Sarm Bo Gin is considered one of the most important forms of the southern mantis system. It is a hard chi gung form and is usually the first to be learned. It strengthens the body, aiding its resistance to physical blows, and also develops power. The form should be done everyday, preferably early morning.
|Chinese||Pinyin||Cantonese Yale||Hakka pinjim|
|^ Sarm Bo Jin||三步箭||Sān Bù Jiàn||Saam1 Bou6 Jin3||Sam1 Pu5 Zien5||literally "Three Step Arrow"|
|^ Jook Lum Gee||竹林寺||Zhú Lín Sì||Juk1 Lam4 Ji6||Zuk7 Lim2 Sii5||literally "Bamboo Forest Temple"|
|^ Kwong Sai||江西||Jiāngxī||Gong1 sai1||Gong1 si1||Jiangxi (江西; Cantonese Yale: Gongsai), not Guangxi (廣西, Cantonese Yale: Gwongsai)|
Lo Mang of the famed Venom Mob is an expert in Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis having studied the martial art for over 13 years before starting an acting career. He shows off his style, complete with a long training sequence, in the Shaw Brothers movie Invincible Shaolin (1978).
The character Toph Beifong from Avatar: The Last Airbender uses a unique style of earthbending, based on the Southern Praying Mantis style. More contemporary earthbending is instead based on the Hung Ga style.
- Hakka Kuen
- Nam Pai Chuan
- Hakka people
- Traditional Chinese medicine
- Meridian (Chinese medicine)
- Dim Mak
- Tui Na
- Toph Bei Fong
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- John Kam Shing Koo (2005). "Biography". Chinese Fistology. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
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- Video showing an hakka style
- Jook Lum Mantis
- Southern Mantis Martial Arts Association
- Chinese Fistology, Sifu John Koo
- Video showing Ki Bu Jin (9-Step-Arrow) and Fa Khian from Sifu K. S. Hsiung's Thong Long Quet Tsot
- K.S.Hsiung Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu Page
- K.S.Hsiung Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu Group